on deciding the language that my daughter will learn first at home

Growing up in the late  80s and early 90s Zulu was my main language at home and at school. I then moved on to multi-racial schools and started learning English and learning in English, it’s been like that since I was 9 years old. I am a fluent English speaker and my Zulu is also top notch and I’m also in the process of learning French.

My child being able to speak Zulu is such a close cause to my heart, even before the thought of having children crossed my mind I knew that said future child would learn Zulu first at home. I know these days it can be tricky for parents to teach children their home language in a world where English dominates but I think with a bit of effort it can be done.

This is how I’m ensuring that Mpilo (my 2 year old daughter) is learning Zulu before English.

Speaking Zulu at home
From birth I’ve made sure to speak Zulu when I’m at home and around Mpilo, it is quite a challenge for me because I have to make a concerted effort to do it. Fortunately for us Mpilo’s nanny is Zulu speaking and thus she gets spoken to in isiZulu during the day and this has helped her to develop her vocabulary.

25 April 2019-2

Reading Zulu books
You know how hard it is to find illustrated books with black girls? Now multiply that by 100 when you try find illustrated books with black girls written in Zulu! So we’re stuck in that conundrum – how I’ve solved it is that I read to Mpilo is Zulu even though the books are written in English, lol! Baby girl doesn’t know how to read yet so she doesn’t know the difference. Even the picture books, I tell her the name of the animals/objects in Zulu rather than in English, this helps her to expand her Zulu vocab.

I was lucky here because Mpilo is a gqom’ baby! Her favourite music genre is gqom’ and she’s slowly getting to learn the words to the songs. This year she started going to a play class and she’s finally getting to learn some age appropriate songs in English.

If you have a little one, I’d like to know how you are teaching them their vernacular language. Does it matter to you that they can speak it or not?

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Lebo

    I also think it’s important for children to learn their mother tongue fluently.

  2. Simpz

    You know my stance on this one, he will learn in IsiZulu until he reaches Gr 3, only then will i think about sending him to ‘multiracial schools’. But also he started his schooling at an English speaking school so he’s clued up on English and Zulu alike *dances to imaginary gqom music* which I don’t like by the way. LOL

    1. Lungi

      How can you not like gqom music sis! I love the stance you are taking with my nephew.

  3. Nomali

    This is lovely, Lungi. I think, as a non-parent, I figure it’d be so easy to teach home language but that doesn’t into account how much of my own thinking and daily chats happen in English. I’m glad though to see you’re making alla the effort. Ethnikids is also a great resource for children’s books in South African languages. Look them up when she starts to learn to read.Also! Yes, Gqomu Kween.

    1. Lungi

      Thank you for the Ethnikids tip. I actually bought her the “Where is Lulu” book that you recommended and she loves it 🙂

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